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Scrub jay is a favorite Floridian

For 71 years, the sweet-singing mockingbird has been Florida's state bird. Now the Florida Audubon Society wants to make another bird _ the FLORIDA SRUB JAY _ the official bird. The scrub jay is the only bird that is unique to Florida, say the Audubon folks.

The sad thing is that only about 10,000 of these birds remain, because their natural habitats are being destroyed by development. The blue and gray birds require scrub oak habitat, with patches of exposed, sandy soil where they can hoard acorns, a dietary staple.

They are fairly tame birds, often willing to be hand-fed by visitors in parks and preserves. They are also one of the most studied birds in North America and are known for their cooperative breeding behavior: The offspring help their parents raise the next brood.

Replacing the mockingbird would require action by the Florida Legislature.

_ Mary Evertz, Times staff writer

Source: All The Birds of North America, Harper-Perennial.